Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

At the World’s End: Lake Tōya, Japan

Abandoned school bus at the end of Nishiyama Crater Trail, Lake Tōya.
Abandoned school bus at the end of Nishiyama Crater Trail, Lake Tōya.

Lake Tōya in Hokkaidō, Japan, is a small tourist resort nestled among mountains and active volcanoes. Known for its serene landscape and relaxing onsen spas, it also has a darker side; in 2000, the majestic Mount Usu erupted and destroyed nearby roads and buildings. Today, hiking trails lead the curious visitor through the smoking fumaroles and abandoned remains.

On a sunny afternoon, the lake is a pleasant retreat. Cruise boats idle to and from Nakajima Island in the shadow of snowy mountains, while tourists flounder in row and pedal boats.

From April to October, evening firework displays draw families from the hotels in their yukata robes to watch the colors explode across the water. The people are friendly, and the restaurants are noted for their delicious "funka" ramen.

The town also has a sinister side. Fans of the Silent Hill computer game and movie franchise might notice similarities between Lake Tōya and the virtual “Toluca Lake.” A previous G8 summit site, the town lies in somewhat faded glory with shabby buildings and silent, empty streets.

The imposing Windsor Hotel bears more than a passing resemblance to Silent Hill’s Lakeview resort, especially when the morning mists roll in and obscure the point where water meets land. Swan-shaped pedal boats loom like monsters out of the mist and lap at the shore with eerie, disorientating noises. In the first few hours after arriving at Lake Toya, we didn’t see a single soul.

Away from the peaceful onsen hotels, the Konpira Crater Trail has been preserved as a memorial to the eruption and winds through the remains of a bridge washed away by lava, an abandoned bathhouse and apartment building. Plant life sprouts out of broken glass and forces its way through cracks in the concrete walls. Pipes and ceiling beams hang like creepers in vacant rooms. Windows are empty holes. Everything is silent and untouched.

Also a short walk from the lake is the Nishiyama Crater Trail. The destruction here is far more shocking; cars have been flattened under concrete blocks, power lines have been ripped out of the ground and hang over the humped remains of roads between crooked phone poles. The ground is unstable as we walk among the steaming craters, threatening echoes of the future devastation lying beneath our feet.

Saddest of all, the trail ends at a kindergarten. Faded murals of animals and children still adorn the walls, the images torn apart by cracks in the concrete. A rusting, derelict school bus hides in the bushes (pictured). The jungle gym is warped out of shape, unusable. The quiet absence of laughter and play is painfully obvious in the afternoon breeze.

Lake Tōya is a welcome break from the frenetic bustle of Japanese cities and a tranquil place to rest, but the little town is also a reminder that the mountains are only sleeping and it may be just a matter of time before they wake again.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Jerry Andrews preaches the beauty of the savior

“Don’t doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”
Next Article

Interview fashionista finds comfort in Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M

Claire still believes in wearing pants while working remotely
Abandoned school bus at the end of Nishiyama Crater Trail, Lake Tōya.
Abandoned school bus at the end of Nishiyama Crater Trail, Lake Tōya.

Lake Tōya in Hokkaidō, Japan, is a small tourist resort nestled among mountains and active volcanoes. Known for its serene landscape and relaxing onsen spas, it also has a darker side; in 2000, the majestic Mount Usu erupted and destroyed nearby roads and buildings. Today, hiking trails lead the curious visitor through the smoking fumaroles and abandoned remains.

On a sunny afternoon, the lake is a pleasant retreat. Cruise boats idle to and from Nakajima Island in the shadow of snowy mountains, while tourists flounder in row and pedal boats.

From April to October, evening firework displays draw families from the hotels in their yukata robes to watch the colors explode across the water. The people are friendly, and the restaurants are noted for their delicious "funka" ramen.

The town also has a sinister side. Fans of the Silent Hill computer game and movie franchise might notice similarities between Lake Tōya and the virtual “Toluca Lake.” A previous G8 summit site, the town lies in somewhat faded glory with shabby buildings and silent, empty streets.

The imposing Windsor Hotel bears more than a passing resemblance to Silent Hill’s Lakeview resort, especially when the morning mists roll in and obscure the point where water meets land. Swan-shaped pedal boats loom like monsters out of the mist and lap at the shore with eerie, disorientating noises. In the first few hours after arriving at Lake Toya, we didn’t see a single soul.

Away from the peaceful onsen hotels, the Konpira Crater Trail has been preserved as a memorial to the eruption and winds through the remains of a bridge washed away by lava, an abandoned bathhouse and apartment building. Plant life sprouts out of broken glass and forces its way through cracks in the concrete walls. Pipes and ceiling beams hang like creepers in vacant rooms. Windows are empty holes. Everything is silent and untouched.

Also a short walk from the lake is the Nishiyama Crater Trail. The destruction here is far more shocking; cars have been flattened under concrete blocks, power lines have been ripped out of the ground and hang over the humped remains of roads between crooked phone poles. The ground is unstable as we walk among the steaming craters, threatening echoes of the future devastation lying beneath our feet.

Saddest of all, the trail ends at a kindergarten. Faded murals of animals and children still adorn the walls, the images torn apart by cracks in the concrete. A rusting, derelict school bus hides in the bushes (pictured). The jungle gym is warped out of shape, unusable. The quiet absence of laughter and play is painfully obvious in the afternoon breeze.

Lake Tōya is a welcome break from the frenetic bustle of Japanese cities and a tranquil place to rest, but the little town is also a reminder that the mountains are only sleeping and it may be just a matter of time before they wake again.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

La Jolla Tide Pools meets Craftsman-style renovation

In its early days, the Kline House operated as La Jolla Sanatorium
Next Article

Jackslacks releases Billy Bacon tribute EP When Pigs Fly

Bacon passed away in August 2019
Comments
1

Haunting.

June 5, 2012

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close